I have done nothing truly innovative in the first 155 days of 2009.
This is what I have come to recognize as the cause of my current state of discontent. I have been doing a lot of self-reflection lately, which of course only happens when I have too much time for self-reflection. My preference is to occupy myself with exciting (read: cutting edge, innovative) projects rather than silly introspection.
Now, it’s true that I have done several things this year with which I’m quite satisfied. I’ve started making some good friends here in LA as the two-year anniversary of my moving west has come and gone. We added the Atlanta Braves as yet another flagship Photocore client. I was involved in launching a free career assessment aimed at helping young people understand themselves and find their ideal job (more about that later). But none of these satisfy my basal thirst for innovation.
I’ve had a handful of ideas germinating for a while, some of which have made it to concept or design phases. And except for the one idea was pre-empted by Google (damn them!), they are viable business ideas and with enough effort they might be profitable. But while “profitability” is on my list of positive adjectives for a a crazy idea, “fun”, “interesting” and “innovative” are higher on that list.
I would rather be involved in something unique than something profitable.
The two full-time jobs that I’ve worked since graduation were both companies that I chose for other than monetary reasons. In the first case, I turned down an offer for a significantly higher salary to work at a promising small company that was doing very cool things in the area of IPTV and social networking. Then, when I decided to leave that company, I happily took a cut to work with a company who had grand ideas about how to revolutionize their market. I saw the opportunity to help the company take those great ideas from concept to execution and that really got me excited.
People who are smarter than me probably already are intimately familiar with what motivates them. For me, I had some sort of mental block on the whole thing. So I, rather accidently, went another route.
Recently, I took two very different career/personality assessments.
The first was the Lipson-Shiu Corporate Type Test – a spoof on that Myers-Briggs personality test. After twelve questions it announced that I was ICIG (the Entrepreneur) which is defined as
“A bubbling energetic type often with boundless energy and a short attention span. Has a pattern of getting enthused about a project, starting it up and leaving the rest to others.”
I think it totally pegged me – surprisingly for a test written as a spoof – as a person who likes to start something big and leave the details to someone else while I start on something else. I could never work at a large company maintaining software. Running naked from an axe murderer in a room full of cacti would be a preferable fate. This assessment gets an “A” for accuracy and a gold star in the plays-well-with-others column.
The second assessment I took was the YSN Self-Assessment. This is a seriously serious assessment build by a crack team of authors, recruiters, scientists and engineers (including me!) It didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know, but it did distill a few things for me that I hadn’t characterized so simply. Among other things, the assessment measures your “values” which are evidently the things that motivate you to do what you do. Based on a 30 minute Q&A session on the website, it tells you how your values stack up. My strongest value? Uniqueness. Next? Knowledge. Ok, next? Anti-Structure. Money is 5th out of 6. And I think that pretty much explains exactly what makes me tick.
Here are a few choice snippets from the premium version of my report:
- Your creativity is not constrained by criticism from others.
- You have a high energy level and work hard at meeting goals.
- You have a knack for creating solutions sometimes more through personal attempts, calculated risks, and creativity than in the book or established procedures.
Yes – I don’t care what other people thing about my ideas or opinions. Yes – when I’m excited about a goal I will hit it with no equivocation. Yes – I can’t stand doing things by-the-book. “A” for accuracy here too, and I can’t take any of that credit because I didn’t invent the science, I just automated it.
So how did both of these assessments actually help me?
Well, I can’t honestly say that they helped me in any concrete way, but they did get me thinking in different terms. They confirmed that for the remaining 209 days of this year I need to be working on things that excite me. It means no more watching a season or two of some TV show over the weekend. No more busywork. No more laziness. No more sleeping unless absolutely necessary.
Oh, and maybe I’ll write more blog posts too.
UPDATE: It has come to my attention that I may have given the impression that I work for peanuts just so that I can do cool things. That’s not true, I get what I would consider an industry-standard salary for my position. What I was trying to impart is that there are things more important to me than money when making career and project decisions. When you have just enough money to live the lifestyle that you desire, then you can really focus on choosing things that make you happy. I’ve been fortunate enough to have more employement options than some, so I have been able to be picky about what I choose to do. Money can’t buy you love, and at least in my case, money can’t buy me job satisfaction.
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